SANA (SARS-CoV-2 NAmur): alternative methods for diagnosing Covid-19 based on RT-qPCR or LAMP technology

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 virus and the growth of COVID-19 cases confront the public health system to a major crisis. The diagnostic capacity is key to the monitoring of the epidemic. However, shortage of specific detection kit components or lack of robotic platforms are seriously impeding the diagnostic throughput in numerous countries.

SARS-CoV-2 detection for diagnosis purposes in the setting of a research molecular biology lab

Principal Investigators: Prof. Benoît Muylkens, Prof. Nicolas Gillet & Dr. Damien Coupeau, NARILIS, Integrated Veterinary Research Unit (URVI)

In collaboration with the Belgian reference laboratory at the KU Leuven, the UNamur developed an alternative method for diagnosing Covid-19. The main advantage of the new process is that it overcomes the use of reagents that are in short supply worldwide. The new method relies on a manual protocol for extraction of viral RNA, followed by RT-qPCR analysis. The technique was approved by the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) on March 17, enabling the UNamur to support the reference laboratory and to accelerate the number of tests carried out in Belgium.

The SANA lab recently passed the symbolic milestone of 10.000 diagnostic tests thanks to the great teamwork of 175 volunteers! The SANA team members have many faces: receptionists, administrative support staff, logisticians responsible for sample collection, tracking and labelling, researchers each carrying out different steps of the process (inactivation of the virus infectivity, viral RNA extraction and RT-qPCR for SARS-CoV-2), managers who validate the results, process coordinators, communicators, etc.... The SANA team carries Covid-19 screening to support rest homes, homes for handicapped people and hospital structures.

A starting pack and detailed protocol are made available by the UNamur to guide every laboratory with expertise in molecular biology to develop a robust SARS-CoV2 screening plateform. The process is applicable in any molecular biology lab throughout the world and can be easily implemented while leaning on workforce and solidarity.

Detailed protocol SANA RT-QPCR & Starting pack

Rapid, specific and sensitive visual detection of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus RNA using colorimetric duplex loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP)

Principal Investigator: Prof. Olivier De Backer, NARILIS, Molecular Physiology Research Unit (URPhyM)

Besides its support to the COVID-19 testing at a national level, the UNamur is also involved in many efforts to help fighting the SARS-CoV-2 in the most vulnerable countries, in particular in Africa and South America, where the impact of coronavirus could be devastating.

Researchers further simplified the diagnostic method by developing a test that does not require PCR equipment. The technique is based on a colorimetric detection of duplex loop-mediated isothermal amplification reaction (LAMP). This PCR-free gene amplification method is simple, low-cost, sensitive, specific and rapid, which makes it ideal for implementation in developing countries.

A detailed protocol is made available by the UNamur to guide every laboratory to develop a SARS-CoV2 screening plateform based on LAMP technology.

Detailed protocol SANA LAMP


Front-line contact: Virginie Bourguignon